After 10 years of hairstyling in top NYC salons, in 2013 Megan Richardson switched from salon to school, joining our faculty as a Cosmetology Instructor. Now our Senior Educator, her journey is one of growth and success, and shows there’s many ways to make a positive impact on people as a hairdresser. Discover her story in this Q&A. . . .
Megan, how did you became interested in hairdressing?
I looked at pictures of stars like Drew Barrymore, Nicole Kidman, and Heidi Klum and became fascinated by their image. They looked unreally beautiful, like they’d been created. In High School I took drama. I was most interested in working on the wigs, costumes, and makeup. I felt those elements created the character more than the actor’s inflections or actions. Then I thought, ‘Hey, I can create a look for anyone, not only actors.’
When did you know you wanted to make it your career?
My mum frequented a cool salon; the owners were rockers and the loud music, darkened room, and smoky mirrors were intoxicating. From bookish parents, this gave me a chance to see a different life. I got my first spiral perm there. A girl named Becky did it and I loved it. It sealed the deal. I enrolled at East Valley Institute of Technology, a High School Trade School. Soon after graduation I moved to New York –– a big step because I’d never visited the Big Apple.
You arrived ready to be a hair stylist in the fashion and beauty capital of the world?
Honestly, no. I came on the pretext of singing and dancing. On reflection, I think it was something to tell mum. I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy but I spent more time doing hair than anything else. I was making ends meet by styling friends for character portrayals and head shots. My calling was calling. I went to work for Paul Labrecque.
Paul Labrecque is renowned across New York City, it’s a great brand. Was it a steep learning curve for a young stylist in a new city?
Yes; but it was also a great experience and confirmed I’d made a great decision by becoming a hairdresser. I did a 2 year apprenticeship combining cut and color training, which made me a more skillful stylist. It’s where I saw that creativity comes from education, fundamentals and craftsmanship. It’s also where I met my first great mentor, Joseph Battisti.
Joseph is another stylist with an amazing reputation in NYC. Tell us about your work with him.
He’s a great inspiration. After Paul Labrecque, we both went to Gerard Bollei and maintained a close working relationship. We taught advanced classes together, and I assisted him whenever he was doing big transformations, like extensions. I had my own clientele as well. We were located on the Upper East Side –– I did lots of smooth bombshell blow-dries!
It sounds like your career was taking off. What made you want to teach at ARROJO?
The aesthetic drew me to ARROJO. Whenever I went to IBS, ARROJO models looked noticeably different from what everyone else was doing. It’s a unique perspective –– street-inspired, modern, cutting edge, and cool. I went to Nick’s classroom and saw his swing bang razor demo; it blew me away.
How did that lead you into teaching cosmetology for the brand?
I’ve always enjoyed sharing tips and tricks with clients, teaching them to recreate what stylists do, which led me to meditate on the idea of educating professionally. Then one day I saw an ad from ARROJO. The ad said, ‘We will teach you how to teach and help you get your teaching license.’ I thought, ‘great!’
So you dived right in?
I also checked other schools in NYC to ensure I was making the right decision. ARROJO impressed me more. The cleanliness, attention to detail, passion, creativity, and energy is alluring and inspiring.
After two years, you’ve become our Senior Educator. That’s impressive, what helps you be a great teacher?
There’s lots of elements to effective teaching, from time management to communication to discipline to goal-setting to keeping students inspired to translating what a student wants to do into something that’s achievable, it is all part of creating a positive learning experience. The transition was a challenge at first but there’s great mentors here who have helped me become a strong, confident educator. One of the best insights I’ve had is to discover what kind of learner each person is; we all learn differently and tailoring your approach can make the difference between the success and failure of a lesson plan.
How is ARROJO Cosmetology different from East Valley Institute of Technology?
It’s a lot different. As a student, I didn’t do head sheets or have set patterns for roller sets or step by step instruction for hair cuts and colors. At school I had the Milady Curriculum and the good intentions of the educators. Here we have much more structure to the curriculum. It means we can teach and measure more consistently, and students have a clear road map to success. ARROJO also has its own techniques, which we weave into the curriculum. It gives the students a first look at more advanced skills. For example, we teach razor cutting as well as scissor cutting, which is a pioneering step in its own right. I also love how ARROJO teaches the fundamental principles of design.
Can you explain what you mean by principles of design?
In my school, nobody said: ‘This is negative space.’ Here we teach the fundamentals of design, not just hairdressing. I had a student recently who was grabbing sections of hair and putting them into random ponytails. She said she wanted to make a mohawk-inspired style. But it had no shape, design, or balanced form. The student comes from a dancing background so I asked her to imagine ballerina movements and the lines and proportions the dancer must make. I encouraged her to make a mohawk using similar attention to lines and form. What she created second time round was worlds apart from her first effort –– it had beautifully balanced shape. I was so happy for her!
It’s sounds like you take a lot of enjoyment out of your work. After two years, how do you look back on your journey at ARROJO?
With pride. I’ve made an impact on the lives and careers of many wonderful people, and I’ve grown a lot too. With students, it’s inspiring to see their fearlessness and creativity, and to help them channel that into successful, positive futures. For myself, I’m amazed at the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve represented ARROJO at IBS and experienced the ARROJO Expo show. I’ve also taken class with icons of the industry. To take color class with Patrick McIvor, razor class with Gerard Scarpaci, and styling class with Amanda Jenkins is incredible and shows the wealth and depth of talent on hand at ARROJO.
We talk a lot about ARROJO’s ‘Education Culture.’ Can you explain what that means to you.
There’s an amazing commitment to education which can be seen in all the classes and shows we facilitate, and in the new facility Nick has built in TriBeCa. What I enjoy most, though, is the camaraderie between stylists who want to learn from each other and grow together. For example, Olga, one of the many ARROJO salon stylists who graduated from our school, recently taught me a fantastic way to diffuse textured hair to get it to expand beautifully. After being in the industry 10-plus years, it’s great to have a team of passionate stylists to share with, learn from, and be inspired by. I’m happy to be a part of it.
Here’s some snapshots of cuts, colors, and styles created by Megan for ARROJO Cosmetology School Demonstrations.